Thursday, October 31, 2019

"The Graveyard Book" Graphic Novel Adaptation by Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell

You might recall how much I loved The Graveyard Book earlier this year.  Probably my favorite new read in all of 2019 thus far.  Well, when I was buying a copy of my very own, I discovered that there's also a graphic novel adaptation of it!  And I happen to love good graphic novels, so I bought that too, mostly because I liked how they drew Silas on the front cover.

It rocks!  They kept a lot of my favorite lines, the whole story unspools just as delightfully in this format as in the novel, and yeah... I could not be more pleased with it.

They even included the line about Silas not eating bananas.  I am weirdly in love with that line.  "Silans consumed only one food, and it was not bananas" (p. 24).  I do not know why that line delights me so much -- I think it's because it strikes me as the funniest way ever of saying, "This guy is a vampire."  It cracks me up.  I can't even think it in my head without grinning.

In fact, I liked this graphic novel so much that I took about two months to read it because I was savoring it as much as I could.  I got the single-volume edition that has the whole book in it, and it's satisfyingly heavy and substantial and... beautiful.  I have hugged it.

(Mine from Instagram)

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for scary scenes involving demons, ghosts, witches, and a creepy murderer who tries to kill a baby.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

"Mycroft Holmes" by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

Why yes, I'm on a Sherlock Holmes kick.  Why do you ask?  :-D

I enjoyed Mycroft and Sherlock so very much that I got the first book in the series from the library as fast as I could.  And now that I'm done with it, I'll see if I can get the third one.

I didn't like this one quite as much as Mycroft and Sherlock, and that's mostly because Sherlock Holmes was barely in it.  Now, the Mycroft in these books is very engaging and sympathetic and interesting... but my heart belongs to his brother, and that's that.

Also, Mycroft in this book ends up morphing into kind of an Allan Quatermain-like person, engaging in fights and action sequences and all kinds of escapades in an exotic location.  Which was fun, but... I missed London.

So what happens is, Mycroft follows his fiancee Georgiana to Trinidad, bringing along his friend Cyrus Douglas, because that's where Douglas and Georgiana are both from, though she's white, the daughter of a wealthy planter, and he's black.  Georgiana begs Mycroft not to come because there's been creepy trouble back in Trinidad, with children dying and rumors of evil spirits and so on.  Which is precisely why Mycroft and Douglas want to go there.

A few poisonings, beatings, and violent fights later, and Mycroft begins trying his hand at detective work.  He and Douglas uncover an evil plot and the implications that Georgiana is not who she says she is.  By the time Mycroft returns to London, he's a very different person than the confident, smug, complacent young government worker he'd been when he left.  Also, he acquired muscles, which get mentioned once too often for my taste.

So anyway, this was darker than the second book in the series, and it lacked Sherlock in all but the very beginning and very end, and so... I liked it, but didn't love it.  But I still want to read the third book by Abdul-Jabbar and Waterhouse, 

I learned something neat and unexpected from both these books, though.  From the bio at the end, anyway ;-)  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar graduated with a degree in English and History from UCLA.  I graduated with minors in English and History!  Who knew I had a little bit of something in common with a famous basketball player who is 19 inches taller than I am?  According to his bio, he's been a Sherlock Holmes fan for many years (me too!) and has written/co-written like nine or ten other books besides these Mycroft books.  Who knew?  I didn't!

(From my Instagram)

Particularly Good Bits:

Holmes resembled their mother, with her strange grey eyes and spun gold hair, whereas Sherlock took after their father, all dark lines and angles, as if he were a Gothic building that, while handsome enough, had a few joints out of alignment (p. 75).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG-13 for violence and some mild cussing.  No smut.

Friday, October 25, 2019

My New FREE Short Story: "Gruff"

Here it is!  My latest short story!  

Like the stories I released the past two years, "Gruff" continues the adventures of some of my Once Upon a Western characters.  

Three Billy Goats Gruff... reimagined. 

Deputy Christopher Small is running out of time. He doesn't want to disappoint his little brothers by neglecting to play the annual autumn prank they're anticipating, but he needs to get himself all slicked up for dinner. Why? His parents have invited Miss Mary Rose O'Brien, the girl he's sweet on. Will he have time to do both? 

Find out in this new short story that follows both my book Cloaked and last year's short story "Blizzard at Three Bears Lake," all part of my Once Upon a Western series of fairy tale retellings.

+Get a FREE Kindle copy from Amazon
+Get a FREE Nook copy from Barnes and Noble
+Get a FREE e-book copy from Kobo

Add it to your to-read shelf on Goodreads here.

I hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Taylor Swift Book Tag

I am not actually a fan of Taylor Swift.  I'm not exactly anti-Taylor either, I just... enjoy a few of her songs if they pop up on the radio, but have never listened to a full album or really bothered to learn the lyrics to any of her stuff.

Be that as it may, I saw this super-cute tag on Coffee, Classics, and Craziness a while back and felt like answering it myself, so here goes!  Book titles linked to my reviews where applicable.

1. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”: a book/series you thought you’d love but ended up disliking

I quit reading Kathy Reichs' books because they got too repetitive.  But I own all twelve seasons of Bones, the TV show based on them.  Go figure.  (TBH, it's all David Boreanaz' fault.)

2. “Red”: a book with a red cover

I have a wonderful old copy of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe that is bright red and I love it.

(All book photos in this post are mine from Instagram)

3. “The Best Day”: a book that makes you feel nostalgic

I can't read The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King without remembering both the Wisconsin library where I first found it and also a bunch of Veggie Tales silly songs that my first toddler loved -- I would let him watch ten minutes of silly songs on YouTube every day, and I'd read while he watched.  It was often my only chance to read at that time, and so... I clung to it, rereading favorite books in tiny chunks with Bob and Larry in the background.

4. “Love Story”: a book with forbidden love

Speak Easy, Speak Love has several love stories, and most of them are not forbidden.  But the love between John, who is Italian, and Maggie, who is black, is absolutely not acceptable in the 1920s.  And they're two of my favorite characters, and watching them struggle against their own fears and the prejudices of their society is just... so good.  Love that book.  (How could I not?  It's a Much Ado About Nothing retelling!)

5. “I Knew You Were Trouble”: a bad character you can’t help but love

A lot of people seem very appalled that I love Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, but how can I NOT love that damaged, flawed, sad, lonely man?  And he's not totally bad -- he does reform and repent and change and grow.

6. “Innocent”: a book/series someone ruined for you

I'm not sure I've got anything for this.  I don't know that anyone else has ever ruined a book for me.  What kind of a person would do that?

Oh, some person in my life has literally wrecked my physical copies of books, that's true.  But that didn't ruin the story for me, just that particular copy.

7. “Everything Has Changed”: a character who goes through extensive character development

Um, all good characters?  Okay, to pick one I haven't talked about yet, Edmund Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.  He goes from a simple, uneducated sailor to a man of great learning and exquisite taste; from being consumed with the desire for revenge to an understanding of how ruinous vengeance can be.

8. “You Belong With Me”: your most-anticipated book release

Of Literature and Lattes, Katherine Reay's upcoming follow-up to The Printed Letter Bookshop.

9. “Forever and Always”: your favorite book couple

Valency Stirling and Barney Snaith from The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  Both of them are intelligent, quirky, introverted, quiet, secretive, wonderful people, and I love them fiercely.

10. “Come Back . . . Be Here”: the book you would be least likely to lend out

My autographed copy of Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  Ain't happening.

11. “Teardrops On My Guitar”: a book that made you cry

Many books make me cry.  Most recently, I was finishing reading Caddie Woodlawn aloud to my kids, and I cried over the part where their dog comes back.

12. “Shake It Off”: a book you love that other people hate

Hmm.  Maybe The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald?  I know a lot of people aren't into that one.

13. “Stay Stay Stay”: a book you wished could go on forever

Well, I was so reluctant to leave the world of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society the first time I read it, I just flipped back to the beginning and started it all over again.

14. “All Too Well”: a series you wished could go on forever

The Sherlock Holmes canon.  It could be four times as long and I'd be ecstatic. That's why I read so many pastiches.  I NEED more!

15. “Ronan”: a book with a tragic character death/death of an innocent

Anne's House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery.  If you've read it, you know what I'm talking about.  if you haven't... I'm not spoiling it for you here.

16. “Out of the Woods”: a book that had you worried about the characters up to the very end

Even though I've read it a dozen or more times, I still worry about Ponyboy and everyone else in The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton the whole book through.

17. “Getaway Car”: a book with a tempestuous romance

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen certainly qualifies for that, I think.  

18. “Clean”: a book that taught you something profound

A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh taught me many things about woman's innate need to create, the importance of alone time, and so on.

19. “Long Live”: a book that transports you every time

The Hound of the Baskervilles by A. Conan Doyle never fails to whisk me away to windswept moors.

That's all, folks!  If you had fun with this, feel free to snag it for your own use.  Not tagging anyone today.

Monday, October 21, 2019

"Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula" by Loren D. Estleman

Hmm.  Well, I liked this well enough to finish the whole book.  And the last sixty pages or so really gripped me.  But overall, I'm afraid this book dragged and was more something I read just to get it off my TBR shelves than because I was enjoying it.

The story is exactly what it sounds like: a mash-up where Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson interact with the characters of Bram Stoker's Dracula and help rid England of the vampire.  

Maybe because I love vampire stories (even though I can't deal with any other kind of horror story), this fell kind of flat for me.  It was very much a re-hashing of Dracula, and we didn't get any new stuff added to that book, really, until those last sixty pages.  That it was new and cool, and I dug it.

Also, Dr. Watson came off as a blundering fool too often for my taste.  It was like this was based more on the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce movies than on the canon itself, and I objected to that.

Particularly Good Bits:

To be forced to stand by helplessly and watch one's entire world rushing headlong towards calamity is a descent into deepest Hell (p. 157).

Outside the window, the first snowflakes of winter were enjoying a brief moment of glory before being trod into an unrecognisable slush beneath the traffic upon the street (p. 181).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for some scary vampire stuff.

This is my 11th book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

"Mycroft and Sherlock" by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

What kind of week have you had?  I've had the kind where I finished this book last weekend, but haven't had a minute to review it until now.  As in, we had to go somewhere and do something every single day.  Sigh.  I'm an introvert AND a homebody, and I just... am tired!

Happily, this coming week has only one day where I have to go somewhere at a specific time.  Whew.  I'm so relieved.

Even more happily, this book is AWESOME.  As in, best Sherlock Holmes pastiche I've read in a long time by someone other than Laurie R. King.  I'm kinda picky about my Sherlock Holmes portrayals (okay, VERY picky about them), but this one pleased me so much!  It focuses more on Mycroft than Sherlock and is definitely the most relatable portrayal I've seen of the elder Holmes brother in basically forever. 

I was a little worried about Sherlock himself at first because he's very young here, still a university student, and I thought at first he had too much, um... emotional fervor, maybe?  A little too reckless?  Too moody?  Too much like the Benedict Cumberbatch version and too little like the Holmes of the canon?  (Don't get me wrong -- I love BC as Sherlock, but he's not the Holmes of the canon, and this is supposed to be.)  But as I read on, I could see how the authors were contrasting that with who he would eventually become with who he is as a young adult, how things he experiences at this point help mold and shape him into the mature Holmes we meet in Doyle's stories.  By the middle of the book, I was fully accepting of this portrayal, especially as we spent more time in Sherlock's point of view.

(From my Instagram account.)

One of the things I liked best about this book was how CLEAN it is!  There are zero cusswords.  There's no sex.  There are quite a few mentions of violent crimes, some of them extreme, but we don't get detailed accounts of how that violence occurs, we see its aftermath or hear someone's remembrance of it.  The violence we do see is street-fights and things of that sort.  The plot centers around a series of corpses that have been cut into four parts and mutilated, but they don't go into great detail about them, just say which body parts were cut off, using phrases that Victorian gentlemen would use, if that makes sense?  It never seemed icky or gratuitous to me.

But there's a lot of talk about drug use, about how opium and its derivatives are totally legal at that time, very common, and how they can destroy people's lives.  The murders are linked to the opium trade, and there's a lot of discussion about the drugs and about characters in the story who have used them, including children.  I learned some really interesting historical things from this, and it was intriguing from a Sherlockian perspective since we know that by the time of the canonical stories, he was using cocaine recreationally, though Dr. Watson did eventually help him overcome that habit.  But here we already see the seeds planted for how he would be able to encounter and acquire the drug, as well as why it was kind of treated as not a huge deal within the canon.

Anyway, I picked this up on a whim at an airport bookstore and ended up liking it so very much that I'm excited that it's actually part of a series!  This is book two, and I've put in a request at my library for the first book.  They have the third one too.  I hope they're as good as this one!  If you're a Holmesian, definitely give these a try.

Particularly Good Bits:

The poor seemed to be not so much gathered under its eaves and upon its stoops as cast off like crumbs from a stale loaf (p. 184).

"Perhaps you might practice, instead of sullen stubbornness, a certain detached amusement," Douglas went on.  "The two perspectives are related, in that they both think less of other human beings than might be warranted.  But, whereas detached amusement is tolerable, sullen stubbornness is not.  Oh, people will still find you arrogant, but they will not be quite so insulted from the start, and some might even be strangely charmed" (p. 252).

...since trying to find Sherlock when he did not wish to be found was a fool's errand, Mycroft preferred to be alone in playing the fool (p. 371).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for the aforementioned drug use and violence.  No cussing, no smut.

Monday, October 7, 2019

"Grace Alone" by Ruth E. Meyer

Do you like books about damaged people?  Characters who don't have it all together, don't have super lives, don't know how to get through tomorrow... or even today?  If so, you're going to love this book.

Grace is a divorced mother of 4 with some hefty emotional baggage.  She's never seen any point in church or religion.  But then this guy shows up at her kids' lemonade stand, and he's exactly the sort of good, decent, trustworthy man she thought didn't exist anymore.

David is the new principal at the local Lutheran school.  He's given up on ever getting married or having a family.  He has his own unhappy past history, though it's far different from Grace's.

Grace likes David, but she's not sure she likes him enough to find out more about all this God stuff he talks about.  Before she can try to fit him into her family picture, she's going to have to do some soul-searching and come to terms with exactly what she does and doesn't believe.

So, yes, this is a Christian book with a love story AND a conversion story.  Unlike so many conversion-story-based Christian books, though, Grace doesn't come to faith at the very end of the book.  Also, becoming a Christian doesn't fix all her problems or provide a sparkly ending.  Problems still crop up.  Day-to-day struggles don't fade.  Her children continue to be a challenge.  Her extended family continues to have trials and tribulations.  But what Grace's newfound faith does provide is hope, security, and the everlasting peace she's been craving, all of which makes those day-to-day issues more handle-able.

If I had one quibble with this book, it's that the various conflicts get resolved very quickly.  Over and over, there's a problem, and then it's solved within a couple chapters.  But the characters were really relatable, the theology was rock-solid, and the book overall was so enjoyable that I'm eager to read the next book in the series!

Particularly Good Bits:

"I can't imagine spending my life on earth with someone I knew I wouldn't get to spend eternity with in heaven" (p. 117).

"Since we know He'll keep His word about punishing sin, we can also trust Him when He promises that He'll forgive us because of Jesus" (p. 149).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: PG-13 for discussions of heavy topics such as extra-marital affairs and abortion.

This is my tenth book read and reviewed for the Mount TBR challenge.